Author Archives: kathyt

Napping – Not Just for Children and the Elderly

Although napping is usually associated with young children and older adults, napping is a growing phenomenon among healthy adults! There are many reasons why people choose to take naps during the day; more and more adults are suffering from sleep deprivation and therefore get tired during the day and may take a nap, whereas others are simply looking for a way to relax.

Most mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers. This means that they sleep multiple times throughout the 24 hours of the day for short periods at a time. However, humans are monophasic sleepers. We sleep once a day for a prolonged period of time. We follow the circadian biological clock that is controlled by cells in the hypothalamus of our brains. The circadian cycle includes a “hump” of sleepiness that occurs during the mid-afternoon. This is another reason why individuals often get sleepy during the day. To deal with this “hump,” individuals either take caffeine, get more nighttime sleep or take naps. Studies have shown that naps are the most effective solution.

Naps can counteract the effects of sleep deprivation. Taking a nap can maintain and even improve alertness, performance, vigilance and cognitive functions. A study conducted at the National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration (NASA) on sleepy astronauts and military pilots showed that by simply taking a 40 minute nap, their performance and alertness had improved by 34% and 100% respectively. Planned naps for older adults may help with functioning and those who have narcolepsy may actually be prescribed with scheduled napping.

The length of the nap has different beneficial effects. A 10-20 minute nap increases performance such as motor skills and alertness. A nap longer than 20 minutes can assist in memory recall as well as enhance creativity. This is especially true for recalling information learned just before taking the nap. Napping for 30-60 minutes enhances decision-making skills like the skill to memorize vocabulary or remember directions. Whereas a nap that lasts 60-90 minutes helps make new connections in the brain and solve creative problems.

Here are some tips to follow for your next nap:

  1. Find a dark, quiet place – this will help you fall asleep faster!
  2. Keep your naps 20-30 minutes long – short naps have the most benefits. Longer naps may lead to sleep inertia and cause post-sleep grogginess or disorientation that may leave you feeling even more tired than before your nap.
  3. Plan and be consistent – the best time to nap is in the middle of the day from 1-3PM.
  4. Drink your caffeine at the right time – it takes some time for the effects of caffeine to start.
  5. Don’t feel guilty! – napping can make you more productive.

The following video “How to Power Nap” by DNews gives some more helpful information and tips on napping:

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Happy napping!

– Kathy Tran